We're told that it's simply an iniquity that buses outside London are not subsidised in the same manner as those inside it. This is rather dressed up with complaints about privatisation, their not being planned and run by the local bureaucrats, but it's this lack of subsidy which is the real complaint here:
It’s not only Londoners who rely on buses and trains
Buses in the capital are fairly priced and frequent – and well used. Why has the rest of the country been left behind?
There's actually no evidence at all that buses anywhere are being fairly priced - nor unfairly. What we can see is that different people have to pay for them. For that's what "subsidy" does, moves the person bearing the cost away from the person doing the using.
Since deregulation, bus usage outside London has declined by more than a third, and fares in many rural areas are rising far above the annual rate of inflation. In the capital, however, usage has risen by 98% since 1986 – though it has fallen slightly in the last year – and passengers enjoy a stable flat fare of £1.50. (I pay £2.40 for a bus trip in Liverpool, where I live, a city with median earnings of £23,000 per worker, compared with London’s £35,000.)
What’s the difference? London’s buses are regulated, subsidised...
There it is. Other people manage to snag some portion of other peoples' money, why can't I? All of which is entirely understandable of course. It is nice if other people pick up part of your daily expenses. But there does need to be some reasonable justification for forcing them to do so through the tax system. Other Londoners - the taxpayer nationally in fact as well - pay that subsidy to London's buses. We're open to arguments that they shouldn't, equally to that they should. As ever, the answer is "it depends."
The argument in London being that 10 million people just aren't going to be able to move at all without some more general taxation paying for moving 10 million people around. Maybe it's a valid argument, maybe not, but that is the one here.
The justification for someone in Saffron Walden being taxed to subsidise buses in Liverpool is what? Other than it would just be nice?